Past Awardee

Balancing Competing Requirements in a Large-scale Network as a Paradigm for Music Composition

Sever Tipei

College: Fine and Applied Arts
Award year: 2008-2009

This proposal is predicated on the notion that a large scale network with its competing requirements can be used as a model for music composition. It entails the creation of a system for computer-assisted composition and digital sound synthesis residing on NCSA's high-performance computers that could be accessed through a web based Graphic User Interface (GUI) in order to produce musical works in real time.

DISSCO, a Digital Instrument for Sound Synthesis and Composition developed at UIUC, is an integrated environment for music composition and additive sound synthesis and will serve as a basis for this project. DISSCO has two major parts: LASS, a Library for Additive Sound Synthesis, which builds sounds from first principles (sine waves), and CMOD, or Composition MODule, a collection of methods for composition that drives the synthesis module. LASS offers a set of sophisticated and detailed options unavailable on other systems, for example, a means of precisely controlling the perceived loudness, a non-linear function of amplitude, and has proved extremely reliable over years of testing. The comparative advantages of DISSCO to MIDI output include its flexibility and precision in handling data that largely surpasses the capabilities of the latter or of any other system. DISSCO, moreover, represents a unified approach to synthesis and composition unique in its design.

This project represents a completely new paradigm, original in concept that will open a new perspective on composing with the assistance of computers. Interdisciplinary in nature, the project involves a collaboration between two scientists and an artist musician. Its product, running on NCSA computers, has the potential of becoming a tool for composers who will only need a web browser in order to input the data for a new work that, once set up, will be generated in real time or faster. Finally, since multiple variants will always be available, the system is ideal for use in the context of live performances and improvisations as well as an illustration of an incessantly renewing artistic object.